Sunday, April 19, 2009
I guess with a decent throw on the Ichiro airmail play, we're looking at a 1-0 Mariner loss rather than a 2-0 Mariner loss. Still, on a day where he went 0-for-4 and struck out twice, it didn't look good and wasn't a good day for the Mariners' leadoff hitter.
With Franklin Gutierrez representing the tying run at the plate and Rob Johnson at first base... what I'm hoping happened is that Gutierrez missed a hit-and-run sign, he didn't swing, and Johnson was dead meat at second. What I'm hoping wasn't the case was that Johnson was told to steal straight away. In-his-prime Jason Kendall is the exception, not the rule. There's no way the catcher should be taking off on a straight steal, especially when your team is down two runs with the tying run at the plate. The other baserunning oddity of the game, of course, was sending Jose Lopez from third on a sacrifice fly. At least it took a near-perfect throw to nail him, but I hardly think of Lopez as a guy I'd be too comfortable with sending on a shallow sacrifice fly.
Ken Griffey, Jr. came to the plate representing the tying run and made contact, hitting a ball into the air on the right side. Dave Sims got some excitement in his voice, then the camera totally did the Coors Field thing. When Coors was a complete launchpad, the camerapeople there would do their thing rather than the usual -- the usual would be to have the shot with the outfielder in the frame, then they'd gauge the reaction and position of the fielder and see whether the ball was going to leave the yard. Since there were so many homers at Coors, the camera usually followed the fly ball in the air as it came down, so it almost seemed like every homer was a moon shot and a rainmaker. Whoever was on camera was totally trying to milk that Griffey ball and tried to hope it went out, but it was nowhere close to the warning track, let alone the rightfield seats.
Do I feel like writing a paragraph on where Mike Sweeney completely whiffed on that pickoff throw to first? I could probably get a paragraph out of it somehow, but... it is what it is.
Mariner hitting combined to go only 5-for-30 in the game, with Endy Chavez hitting a double for the team's only extra-base hit. Only Rob Johnson had a multi-hit game, while Chavez, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Franklin Gutierrez grabbed one hit apiece. That leaves the remaining five hitters in the Seattle lineup with hitless nights. Additionally, Mariner hitters struck out seven times, with only Griffey, Adrian Beltre, and Johnson avoiding the strikeout. The Mariners were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but it's not like there were many runners to begin with. This was just one of those nights.
I'll cover the starting pitching below. The Mariner bullpen (Roy Corcoran/Sean White) faced 11 hitters to get nine outs. The bullpen gave up two hits, walked one, and struck out one. They recorded six groundouts and one flyout. The Tigers weren't exactly ripping the cover off the ball, but the Mariners weren't making good contact on the ball.
1) Rob Johnson
Looks like I have to temper my argument for Jeff Clement for just one night here. As noted above, I really don't think Johnson took off from first on his own accord. In any event, Johnson is from the Butte/Whitehall metroplex in Montana. Having driven I-90/94 through Montana quite a few times, I can conclusively say that Butte is a dump. There are some old mining-era mansions downtown and a giant open-pit mine, so hooray. They also may or may not still have a pretty bad meth problem (I saw a Current TV newspod on this). This message was not approved by the chamber of commerce in Butte, as you may have surmised. The main reason Johnson is in the first gameball spot is that I think it'll be quite rare to see him nabbing the multi-hit games. If I don't give him the gameball now, he may never get one. One of Johnson's hits was a nice hit-and-run behind the runner to rightfield. Bonus points to Johnson for not having a swing that's as hard an uncomfortable to watch as Mike Sweeney's swing. I'm not an expert on a balanced swing or anything, but Sweeney's swing looks really unbalanced, unsmooth, and inefficient. It looks like it's hard for him to swing.
2) Erik Bedard
After how ridiculously awesome his last start was, I was expecting an average outing or worse from Bedard. What we saw was slightly above average, I'd have to say. He faced 27 hitters to get 18 outs (six innings). He gave up seven hits (one double), walked two, and struck out eight. He recorded four groundouts and six flyouts. I'd think it has to be boring to play defense behind Bedard -- put that all together, there were 10 outs recorded in play (the seven hits were also in play), but eight weren't (strikeouts), and two hitters walked. Maybe that's what surprised Ichiro in the scoring inning (sixth). Maybe Bedard allows you enough time to daydream about taking batting practice off "the closer." Of course, there's nothing like having Carlos Silva throw the next day to wake up the defenders from the Bedard doldrums. Maybe the biggest gripe about Bedard's line for this game is the seven hits. The hook's there, as evidenced by the eight strikeouts, but the pinpoint control isn't necessarily there, as evidenced by the 100 pitches over six innings.
3) Roy Corcoran
After his icky outing the other night, Corcoran had much better results this time. He faced only one hitter over the minimum in his two innings of work, and that extra hitter was walked. He gave up one hit and struck out one. He got three groundouts and one flyout. It seemed like his pitches were pretty effectively hitting the lower part of the strike zone. Corcoran threw 16 of his 24 pitches for strikes. Normally you might say that Corcoran's relief was of a decent amount of pressure since he was keeping the Mariners close at two runs behind. Psychologically, though, I knew and felt there wasn't much chance of the Mariners coming back on Edwin Jackson. That was before I saw Fernando Rodney blow a fastball past Ken Griffey, Jr. Needless to say, his running speed isn't what it used to be, but the bat speed isn't there like it used to be either. The one good thing about this game is that it broke the recent trend of the bullpen usually having one guy a night have a bad outing. Baby steps. You have to look for positives in a 2-0 loss.
There were five hitless Mariners in the lineup for this game. Ichiro led them all in strikeouts, so that's a factor. Adrian Beltre had that highlight-reel defensive play that was the #2 Web Gem of the night, whereas Ichiro airmailed the throw home on the only scoring play of the game. I don't think he had a chance at the lead runner, but that's a good way to make sure you don't have a chance at either runner. When I played outfield as a youngster, my arm sucked, so the only guy I could airmail was the cutoff man. That aside, Ichiro was 0-for-4 with the two strikeouts. As the tablesetter for this team, if Ichiro's not going, it makes it that much harder for the team to score runs. As for being in the outfield, Ichiro's only been back for a few days now, so maybe he has to get his sea legs back. It's odd that I'm talking about Ichiro's brutal throw to the plate happening in the same game where Endy Chavez gunned down Curtis Granderson trying to score. Ultimately, Ichiro's error didn't really matter since the Mariners didn't score at all, but you'd really just rather not have the error.
Carlos Silva? Who really wants Monday watercooler chat about how Silva did on Sunday? Yikes.